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Exploring Guess and A$AP Rocky’s ’90s revival

How the Pretty MF is bringing the brand to a new generation while still honouring its roots

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“Y’all know we like that ‘90s shit? You got that Guess shit out here? Y’all see the homegirl Naomi in that shit?” – A$AP Rocky, at his most recent Melbourne show

Despite being young enough to be named after his mum’s favourite rapper, Rakim Mayers AKA A$AP Rocky and his affiliated mob, have revived yet another hip-hop staple of the ‘90s. Under the careful curation of A$AP Yams (RIP), the A$AP Mob have impacted the course of hip-hop thanks to their Harlem upbringing, Houston’s chopping and screwing (complete with its drugs of choice) and fusion of various iconic and avant-garde fashion designers. To the youth, they are ticking all of the right boxes. Right neighbourhood, molly-ed out sound, and fresh gear—but all the while paying dues to old heads.

“Who’s always on the corner rolling up always blessed? When I dress, it’s never nothing less than Guess” – Nas, ‘Represent’

Guess was started in California by brothers Paul and Maurice Marciano, who fled their native Marseille with an extensive tax bill in town. Initially, they opened their  boutique in Beverley Hills. At a reasonably prohibitive price point of $60 (equivalent to $160 now) for a pair of jeans, it’s not hard to see how the brand’s appeal crossed over from downtown and uptown alike. The brand’s obvious but subtle branding, located on the back right pocket of its often stone washed jeans and clear black and white advertising campaigns built a strong brand identity, which is still apparent to this day. Throughout the ‘90s the brand was plagued with allegations of sweatshop labour, which came to a head in 1997 with bands like Rage Against The Machine running the campaign “We Don’t Wear Guess”.

“In Queens where my drugs be, I wear Guess Jeans and Rugbies” – Cormega, ‘Affirmative Action’

In the latest weighty tome that is POP magazine, Rocky and former Guess Jeans icon Naomi Campbell can be seen lounging over one another under the photographic eye of Brianna Capozzi. The shoot references early ‘90s campaigns shot by the likes of Ellen von Unwerth under supervision of co-founder Paul Marciano. Another iconic campaign that should be noted featured a young Anna Nicole-Smith, shot by Melbourne born photographer Daniela Federici.

Image: Brianna Capozzi / POP magazine

Image: Brianna Capozzi / POP magazine

“The baggy blue Guess jeans, pull strings off in Palm Springs” – Ghostface Killah,  ‘Investigative Reports’

For the A$AP collaboration, iconic archival pieces have been brought back with the subtle rebranding switching the ‘S’s with dollar signs. Like all of Guess’s campaigns, the video production was overseen by Paul Marciano, who I can’t imagine he endorses people breaking into the brand’s showroom and archive. Which ever way you look at the collection it will definitely bring Guess to a new audience, who like much of the ‘90s revivalist were probably born in the latter half of the decade. To those who have fond memories of the brand it might be nice to see it in some more relevant boutiques than the shopping malls and department stores the brand has become known for.

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